Firstly: just what is vote swapping? Vote swapping, or vote trading, allows people in swing states — who want to voice their support for a third-party candidate but whose second-choice candidate is one of the two major candidates — to trade their vote with someone in a “safe state”.
Hold on — explain. Take this as an example. Voter A, a Clinton supporter living in New York (a non-swing state), could make a vote-swapping agreement with Voter B, a third-party voter living in Florida (a swing state). Voter B in Florida would like to voice his support for Jill Stein, but ultimately also wants to prevent a Trump victory in the state. Knowing that Florida’s outcome, as a swing state, will play an important role in the overall national outcome, he worries that if he votes for Stein in Florida he could help Trump claim the Oval Office. Voters A and B strike an agreement: Voter A will vote for Jill Stein in New York and Voter B will vote for Hillary Clinton in Florida. Voter B is able to express dissent for the two major candidates without hurting Clinton’s chances in Florida.
Is this kind of arrangement legal? Well, actually: yes. In 2007, this very question came up during the lead-up to the 2008 election. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that vote swapping is legal and protected under the First Amendment.
How is vote swapping factoring into the current presidential campaign season? Most of the organized efforts around vote swapping are aiming to prevent a Trump win. There are multiple anti-Trump websites, along with an app, that facilitate vote trading. Tens of thousands of voters looking to prevent a Trump victory have signed up through various sites in recent weeks.
What’s the upshot of all this vote trading? It’s difficult to tell, especially given the fact it is almost impossible to verify how individuals vote in these kinds of arrangements. But, according to the John Stubbs — co-founder of one major anti-Trump vote trading website, TrumpTraders.org — over 40,000 votes were swapped on Trump Traders during the lead-up to this historic election. This, he says, has contributed to 3,000 votes for Clinton being traded into the state of Florida.
As the polls are closing all over the country tonight, we will see how all of this shakes out.